Minamoto no Yoritomo (源頼朝)

MINAMOTO no Yoritomo was a busho (Japanese military commander) during the end of the Heian period and the early Kamakura period. He is known as the first seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") of the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun).

MINAMOTO no Yoritomo was born near the end of the Heian period, as the third son to MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo of Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan). He was exiled to Izu Province after his father, Yoshitomo, lost during the Heiji War. He received Prince Mochihito's order in Izu and rose in arms against the Taira clan. He suppressed the Kanto region and headquartered in Kamakura. He appointed his younger brothers to the position of daikan (local governor) and exterminated the Taira clan and MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka. Then he exiled MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune, the youngest brother, who was recognized for his distinguished war service. MINAMOTO no Yoritomo placed Shugo (Military Governor) and Jito (Military Land Steward) at various districts to build forces, and consequently exterminated Oshu Fujiwara clan in the Battle of Oshu. In 1192, MINAMOTO no Yoritomo was appointed to seii taishogun.

As a result, a government partly independent of the Imperial Court came into power. Later, the government was called the Kamakura bakufu. The military government ruled by the bakufu lasted for approximately 680 years until the Restoration of Imperial Rule.


All the dates described are from the old lunar calendar.

If era name was changed during any year, a new era name is described for that year.

See the chronological table for the reference of authority contents.

Shussho (one's birth)

MINAMOTO no Yoritomo was born in May 17, 1147 (April 8, 1147 based on the old lunar calendar) as the third son of MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo. His childhood name was "Oni musha" (A daredevil warrior), or Onitakemaru. His mother was Yura gozen who was a daughter of FUJIWARA no Suenori, the daiguji (high priest of a great shrine) of Atsuta-jingu Shrine. His birthplace is still not known, but is believed to be in Owari Province or in Kyoto.

His father, Yoshitomo, was in the lineage of Emperor Seiwa, and was the head of the Kawachi-Genji, that established an influence in Togoku (the eastern part of Japan, particularly Kanto region) from time of MINAMOTO no Yorinobu, MINAMOTO no Yoriyoshi and MINAMOTO no Yoshiie, who headquartered in Kawachi Province. In 1156, Yoshitomo followed Emperor Goshirakawa in Hogen War with TAIRA no Kiyomori, and won a victory. Yoritomo successively filled various Government posts as the Onzoshi (son of a distinguished family). In 1158, Yoritomo was appointed to Kogo no miya gon no shoshin (Junior Office Secretary of the Empress's Household) serving Imperial Princess Muneko who became Kisai no miya (Empress) as Emperor Goshirakawa's junbo (a woman who was given the status equivalent to the Emperor's birth mother). In 1159, Yoritomo was appointed to Josaimonin kurodo (Chamberlain of Josaimonin) when Imperial Princess Muneko became nyoin (a close female relative of the Emperor or a woman of comparable standing) Josaimonin with the issue of an Imperial letter to permit use of "In" title. Also in the same year, Yoritomo was appointed to kurodo of Ukone no shogen (Lieutenant of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards) in February (January in old lunar calendar), and in August (June in old lunar calendar), he was appointed to kurodo of Emperor Nijo.

Heiji War

After the Hogen War, the political situation of the capital was very fluid from a power struggle between the political faction supporting Shinsei (direct imperial rule by the Emperor) of Emperor Nijo and the political faction supporting Insei (rule by the retired Emperor) of Emperor Goshirakawa, and antipathy towards FUJIWARA no Michinori who rapidly increased in power. Encouraged by FUJIWARA no Nobuyori who was a trusted vassal of Emperor Goshirakawa, Yoshitomo, the father of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, brought about the Heiji War on January 25, 1160 (December 9, 1159 in old lunar calendar). At first, thirteen year old Yoritomo was appointed to Hyoefu (Headquarters of the Middle Palace Guards) at Jimoku (ceremony for appointing officials) of reward grants for the Imperial army that defeated Shinzei (FUJIWARA no Michinori). However the Emperor escaped from dairi (Imperial Palace) to the residence of TAIRA no Kiyomori in Rokuhara, and Ise-Heishi (Taira clan) that became Imperial army make inroads into Dai-dairi (place of the Imperial Palace and government offices) on February 12, 1160 (December 27, 1159 in old lunar calendar). MINAMOTO no Yoshihira, the eldest brother, fought hard and Yoritomo followed him into the fight. However the army lead by Yoshitomo lost against the Taira family. The family was removed from the government post and fled from Kyoto.

Eight horsemen, such as Yoritomo, followed Yoshitomo heading to Togoku where they were headquartered. However Yoritomo strayed from the party on the way, and was captured by TAIRA no Munekiyo, who later became a retainer of TAIRA no Yorimori. After Yoritomo strayed, father Yoshitomo was murdered by Tadamune OSADA in Owari Province, the eldest brother Yoshihira, who was hiding in the capital, he was captured and executed, and the second elder brother Tomonaga died from an injury during the run. Punishment of Yoritomo, sent to Rokuhara in Kyoto in March 25, 1160 (February 9, 1160 based on the old lunar calendar), was expected to be the death penalty. However Ike no zenni, stepmother of Kiyomori, asked Kiyomori for clemency as she saw a resemblance between Yoritomo and her child TAIRA no Iemori who died young. Such circumstance influenced the decision, Yoritomo escaped a death punishment to lower one and was exiled to Hiruga-kojima Island in Izu Province on April 25 (March 11 based on the old lunar calendar). Those who took part in the Heiji War, such as FUJIWARA no Tsunemune, FUJIWARA no Korekata, and a younger brother MINAMOTO no Mareyoshi, were also exiled on the same day.

Exiles in Izu

There are hardly any historical materials on life in exile in Izu Province.

It is believed that, even though he was in exile, he was able to spend a relatively stable and free way of life, enjoying hunting, as he received assistance from Atsuta Daiguji (the highest priest serving at Atsuta Shrine in Owari Province), which was his mother's parental home, and Hikinoama, menoto (a woman providing breast-feeding to a highborn baby). Around Yoritomo, Morinaga ADACHI, Hikinoama's son-in-law, served as close aide, and Sasaki four brothers, such as Sadatsuna SASAKI, who lost shoryo (territory) by following the Minamoto clan, served as follower. Yoritomo had been spending days as a local Samurai and was deeply embraced at the reizan (sacred mountain) of the region, such as Hakone gongen (sacred mountain) and Soto gongen, and never neglected sutra chanting to condole on death of MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo, dead father, and Minamoto clan. Yoritomo regularly received information about Kyoto from MIYOSHI no Yasunobu, a nephew of the menoto. During life in exile, Yoritomo married Masako HOJO, the eldest daughter of Tokimasa HOJO, a Gozoku (local ruling family) in Izu, and fathered a daughter, Ohime. Time of marriage is estimated from birth year of Ohime, and said to be around 1178.

"The tale of Soga," said to be highly fictional, makes the statement below. Around 1167, twenty-one year old Yoritomo was at Sukechika ITO. Here, samurai such as Sanehira DOI, Tokage AMANO, and Kageyoshi OBA, who later became retainers, gathered around, and hunting and sumo wrestling commenced. However Yoritomo infuriated Sukechika, as he fathered a child, Sentsurumaru, with Sukechika's third daughter Yaehime when Sukechika was in Kyoto. Sukechika threw Sentsurumaru away to Gogafuchi in Ito, fearing the news would reach Taira clan. Sukechika made Yaehime to marry EMA no Koshiro, and planned to kill Yoritomo. Yoritomo heard the plan from the second son of Sukechika, Sukekiyo ITO, and he had a narrow escape from death by running away to Soto gongen. This was an incident when Yoritomo was around twenty-nine years old. At aged 31, Yoritomo had an affair with Masako HOJO, the eldest daughter of Tokimasa HOJO who was performing the duty of watching Yoritomo. Tokimasa sent Masako to Kanetaka YAMAKI for marriage, but Masako slipped out during the night and became the wife of Yoritomo.

Raising an army

In 1180, Takakuranomiya Prince Mochihito sent out ryoji (orders issued by princes, empresses, etc.) to the Minamoto clan in various districts ordering to search and kill the Taira clan. On May 30 (April 27 under the old lunar calendar), Yoritomo in Izu Province also received the ryoji from his uncle, MINAMOTO no Yukiie. Prince Mochihito died in action in Uji City with MINAMOTO no Yorimasa, but Yoritomo did not move and watchfully waited the course of events. However the Taira clan planned to search out and kill the Minamoto clan in various districts after learning they had received ryoji. Yoritomo discovered the activity, realizing that his own life was at risk, and he decided to raise an army. He sent an envoy, Morinaga ADACHI, to each Gozoku in Bando, to whom he had connections with from the time of Yoshitomo, for assistance to raise the army.

First target of the army attack was set to Kanetaka YAMAKI, a mokudai (deputy kokushi, or a deputy provincial governor) in Izu Province. Upon Yoritomo's order, Tokimasa HOJO attacked the residence of the provincial governor (Kanetaka's residence) Nirayama, Izu Province on September 15, 1180 (August 17, 1180 under the old lunar calendar) and killed Kanetaka.

Yoritomo gained Izu, and headed to Dohi-go Village, Sagami Province. Yoshitoki HOJO, Shigemitsu KUDO, Sanehira DOI, Muneto TSUCHIYA, Yoshizane OKAZAKI, Sasaki four brothers, Tokage AMANO, Kageyoshi OBA, and Kagekado KATO followed Yoritomo, and the Miura family, such as Yoshizumi MIURA, Yoshimori WADA, left the Miura-hanto Peninsula to join Yoritomo. However, on September 21 (August 23 in old lunar calendar) before joining the army led by Miura, Yoritomo fought in the Battle of Ishibashiyama against approximately 3000 horsemen lead by Kagechika OBA, Shigekuni SHIBUYA, Naozane KUMAGAI, Tsuneyoshi YAMAUCHISUDO and Sukechika ITO, who served Taira clan. Three hundred horsemen led by Yoritomo lost in the battle, and Yoritomo escaped into the mountains with a few followers, such as Sanehira DOI. Yoritomo escaped death after several days escaping into the mountains, and he took a ship from Manazuru-cho Town on September 26 (August 28 under the old lunar calendar), heading to Awa Province.

Suppression of Kanto

Yoritomo arrived at Awa Province on September 27, 1180 (August 29, 1180 in old lunar calendar), he called on Hirotsune KAZUSA and Tsunetane CHIBA, who had influence in Boso Peninsula, for support and also sent Tokimasa HOJO to call on Nobuyoshi TAKEDA of Kai-Genji (Minamoto clan) for reinforcements. Yoritomo gained support from both the Kazusa and Chiba clans, and went up north in the Boso Peninsula. In addition to Kiyoshige KASAI and Tomoto ADACHI, Shigetada HATAKEYAMA, Shigeyori KAWAGOE and Shigenaga EDO, who turned against Yoritomo once before, also followed Yoritomo when he entered Musashi Province at the end of October (beginning of October in old lunar calendar). On November 2 (October 6 under the old lunar calendar) Yoritomo entered Kamakura, where his father Yoshitomo and the eldest brother Yoshihira once lived, and set up the Okura palace in Okura as a residence, as headquarters for the Kamakura government. Also Yoritomo continued development of Kamakura such as moving Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine, a branch shrine of a deity of Iwashimizu Hachimangu in the suburbs of Kyoto made by an ancestor, MINAMOTO no Yoriyoshi, to the foot of a mountain in the north, and erected the Shochoju-in Temple to pray to Buddha for the happiness of father Yoritomo. Kamakura continued to develop as future headquarters of the Kamakura bakufu.

On November 12 (October 16 in old lunar calendar), 50,000 horsemen led by TAIRA no Koremori, who received an imperial decree to hunt down and kill MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, reached Suruga Province. Yoritomo left Kamakura to engage the enemy, two days later he joined 20,000 horsemen led by Nobuyoshi TAKEDA and Tokimasa HOJO at Kise River. On November 16 (October 20 under the old lunar calendar), Yoritomo faced the army led by Koremori at the Battle of Fujigawa. However the army of Koremori was put to rout while withdrawing as they wavered from the sound of waterfowl flying off so, the Yoritomo won the battle without much fighting. The next day Yoritomo intended to go to the capital, but Tsunetane CHIBA, Yoshizumi MIURA and Hirotsune KAZUSA remonstrated with Yoritomo to suppress Togoku first as the Hitachi-Genji (Minamoto clan) and Satake clan had not yet come to heel. Yoritomo accepted this and returned the army to the Kise River. Yoshitsune, the younger paternal half-brother who relied on FUJIWARA no Hidehira in Oshu, joined Yoritomo on the same day.

On the way back, Yoritomo presented the first awards of merit at Sagami kokufu (provincial office of Sagami Province under the ritsuryo system) and also executed captured Kagechika OBA. Yoritomo departed Kamakura once again to kill Hideyoshi SATAKE, and reached Hitachi kokufu (the provincial office of Hitachi Province under the ritsuryo system) on November 29 (November 4 under the old lunar calendar). The battle had finished as Hideyoshi fled, with the remarkable service of Hirotsune KAZUSA (the Battle of Kinsa-jo Castle). Yoritomo gave shoryo of Hideyoshi as awards of merit, and after returning to Kamakura, appointed Yoshimori WADA as Samurai-dokoro betto (superior of the Board of Retainers). Samurai-dokoro (the Board of Retainers) took the responsibility of military affairs and the police force in the future Kamakura bakufu.

The Kono clan, Omi-Genji (Minamoto clan), Kai-Genji and Shinano Genji (Minamoto clan) of Iyo, Shikoku in Chikushi Kyushu area had raised an army against the Taira clan, such activity of the anti-Taira clan had developed all over Japan by the end of January 1181 (end of 1180 under the old lunar calendar). The Taira clan moved capital from Fukuhara-kyo (Capital of Fukuhara) to Kyoto to launch a counterattack and suppressed the power of temples and shrines, such as Omi-Genji and Nara, in Kinai region (the five capital provinces surrounding the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto). However at the beginning of February 1181 (beginning of 1181 under the old lunar calendar), the activity of the anti-Taira clan had become more aggressive, as Takanao KIKUCHI of Higo Province, MINAMOTO no Yukiie of Owari Province and Mino Genji (the Minamoto clan) of Mino Province, also raised an army against the Taira clan. In the disturbance, TAIRA no Kiyomori had passed away with a fever on February 25 (leap February 4 under the old lunar calendar). While nationwide the anti-Taira clan activity continued, the Taira family dispatched troops and suppressed Mino Genji. After that the fifth son of Kiyomori, TAIRA no Shigehira left to Owari and the eastward region for the Togoku Conquest. Shigehira defeated Yukiie and others in the Battle of Sunomatagawa that happened at the border of Ise and Owari, and gained control of Owari but Shigehira went back to capital without going any further eastward.

Yoritomo sent following letter to the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa around August (around July under the old lunar calendar).
There is no intention of rebellion.'
Both Genpei (the Minamoto clan and the Taira clan) shall be taken into your service once again.'
However the successor of Kiyomori, TAIRA no Munemori, rejected the peace suggestion, because of the will of Kiyomori. On the other hand, Munemori appointed FUJIWARA no Hidehira of Oshu to Mutsu no kami (the governor of Mutsu Province), expecting support from Hidehira to search and kill MINAMOTO no Yoritomo. In the meantime, the Taira clan set their attack target not to Yoritomo, but to the rising power in Hokuriku region, such as Wakasa and Echizen Provinces, that became active after the Battle of Yokotagawara occurred in July 1181 (June 1181 under the old lunar calendar). Also there was Yoshisada YASUDA of Totomi Province, who still maintained a neutral stand, therefore Yoritomo and the Taira clan powers did not meet directly at the time. However movement of the Oshu Fujiwara clan that extended power over the north was unknown, which continued to put Yoritomo in the situation of being unable to move from Bando. The year after, in 1182, the Taira clan could not carry out activities of searching and killing because of the Famine of Yowa caused by unsettled weather. In the same year, Yoritomo dedicated ganmon (written prayers) to defeat Taira clan to Ise-jingu Shrine, and called on a deity for making a branch shrine of Benzaiten (Sarasvati, Buddhist goddess of music, learning, eloquence, wealth, longevity, and protection from natural disasters) in Eno-shima Island to pray for subjugation of FUJIWARA no Hidehira. Also in September (August under the old lunar calendar) during the same year, Masako, wife of Yoritomo, gave birth to a legitimate son, MINAMOTO no Yoriie.

In March 23, 1183 (February 21, 1183 under the old lunar calendar), MINAMOTO no Yoshihiro (Teacher Saburo Shida), the uncle who lived in Hitachi, raised an army to attack Kamakura. At the time, most gokenin (immediate vassal of the shogunate during the Kamakura and Muromachi through Edo periods) were at Suruga Province to prepare for attack of the Taira clan. Yoritomo agonized over how to deal with the situation, so Yoritomo entrusted the situation to Tomomasa OYAMA, and himself went to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine to pray for peacefulness of both battles of the east and west. Tomomasa defeated Yoshihiro in the Battle of Nogimiya, and MINAMOTO no Noriyori, the younger paternal half-brother, killed the fleeing army of Yoshihiro. Yoritomo gave shoryo of Yoshihiro and samurai who followed Yoshihiro, to his own gokenin. As a result, power hostile to Yoritomo was eliminated in Kanto.

Battle against Yoshinaka

In spring 1183, MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka, the male cousin of Yoritomo who had received Prince Mochihito's order and raised an army, had sheltered the uncle MINAMOTO no Yoshihiro and MINAMOTO no Yukiie, who were pursued by Yoritomo. This put Yoritomo and Yoshinaka on the verge of an armed conflict. However, after discussions they agreed with MINAMOTO no Yoshitaka (Shimizu no Kanja), the legitimate son of Yoshinaka, to be sent to Kamakura to marry Ohime, the eldest daughter of Yoritomo, and concluded peace.

Yoshinaka, together with Yukiie and Yoshihiro, continued to win the battle against the Taira clan. Yoshinaka led a large army into Kyoto in August (July under the old lunar calendar), as the Taira clan and Emperor Antoku fled from the capital, and Emperor Goshirakawa summoned Yoshinaka to give an order to search for and kill the Taira clan including TAIRA no Munemori. However army of Yoshinaka was not well disciplined, as it was a medley army, that worsened the food situation of capital that was suffering from famine. Also Yoshinaka provoked antipathy from In (the retired Emperor) and the retainer of Imperial Court as he intervened with the succession to the Imperial Throne. Imperial Court and people in Kyoto desired MINAMOTO no Yoritomo go up to Kyoto, therefore the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa sent Yoshinaka to search for and kill the Taira clan in Saigoku (western part of Japan - especially Kyushu, but ranging as far east as Kinki), instead demanded Yoritomo go to Kyoto. However on October 31 (October 7 under the old lunar calendar), Yoritomo sent back an envoy and rejected the demand. One of the reason was that there was a risk of Kamakura being attacked by FUJIWARA no Hidehira and Takayoshi SATAKE, the other was that Kyoto would not hold such a large army. On November 2 (October 9 under the old lunar calendar), the Imperial Court restored Yoritomo's Ikai (Court rank) that was stopped during the Heiji War. On November 7 (October 14 under the old lunar calendar) an imperial decree was issued, stating to move shoryo of Tokaido and Tosando back to the original honjo (proprietor or guarantor of manor), and Yoritomo would present nengu (land tax) and kanmotsu (tribute goods paid as taxes or tithes) of the area, also Yoritomo would decide on punishment of those who disobeyed the order, (Juei-ninen Jugatsu no Senji - the imperial decree issued to Minamoto no Yoritomo). Yoritomo had already been confiscating shoryo that he obtained by force and giving rewards and punishments to gokenin, but that had been unofficial as far as the Imperial Court was concerned. As the imperial decree was issued in November 1183 (October 1183 under the old lunar calendar), the Kamakura government led by Yoritomo, which was originally a rebel, became a power that was officially certified by the Imperial Court.

On November 8 (leap October 15 under the old lunar calendar), Yoshinaka, who feared Yoritomo's going to Kyoto, wished for an order to search for and to kill Yoritomo when he returned to Kyoto after being defeated in the battle to search for and kill the Taira clan, but it was not granted. Yoritomo sent an army, led by MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune, and it reached Omi Province in December (November under the old lunar calendar). Yoshinaka, placed between the Taira family and Yoritomo, attacked In and took the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa into custody to gain the imperial decree to search for and kill MINAMOTO no Yoritomo. At the end of January to beginning of February 1184 (January under the old lunar calendar), Yoshinaka was appointed to seii taishogun (or seito taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the eastern barbarians"). However on February 10 (January 20 under the old lunar calendar) MINAMOTO no Noriyori and Yoshitsune headed to Kyoto with army of 55,000 horsemen, and Yoshinaka was killed in Otsu City, Omi Province.

Yoritomo planned to kill Yoshitaka, who was at Kamakura, but Ohime told Yoshitaka about the plan. On June 8 (April 21 in old lunar calendar), Yoshitaka escaped Kamakura disguising himself as his wife. Yoritomo was enraged and sent out a pursuing party, Yoshitaka was killed at the river beach of Iruma-gawa River in Musashi Province on June 11 (April 24 in old lunar calendar). Ohime was deep in grief and her mother Masako HOJO was furious, that she sentenced the retainer who killed Yoshitaka to expose the severed head. However Ohime deepened emaciation even after that, and later she would pass away at the age of twenty years old.

The searching and killing of the Taira clan

After defeating Yoshinaka, Noriyori and Yoshitsune departed Kyoto to search for and kill the Taira clan and on February 27, 1184 (February 7, 1184 under the old lunar calendar), they won a victory in the Battle of Ichinotani in Settsu Province, where they captured TAIRA no Shigehira and took him back to Kyoto. Yoritomo sent letter to samurai in Kyushu and Shikoku regions demanding to search for and kill the Taira clan, to hunt down members of the Taira clan who escaped to the Shikoku region.

The Imperial Court gave the official court rank to TAIRA no Yorimori (son of Ike no zenni, the person who saved Yoritomo's life), Noriyori who returned to Kamakura, MINAMOTO no Hirotsuna, Yoshinobu HIRAGA and Yoshiyasu ICHIJO (husband of sisters) on July 20 (June 5 under the old lunar calendar). Yoshitsune, who had a distinguished war record, was staying at Kyoto, and was removed from his appointment. On September 19 (August 6 under the old lunar calendar), Yoshitsune was appointed to kebiishi (officials with judicial and police powers) by the intention of Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa, but without Yoritomo's unofficial recommendation, which angered Yoritomo and he removed Yoshitsune from the army that was to search for and kill Taira clan. The Army to lead the search and kill the Taira clan led by Noriyori departed from Kamakura on September 21 (August 8 under the old lunar calendar). Retainers following Noriyori were Yoshitoki HOJO, Yoshikane ASHIKAGA, Tsunetane CHIBA, Yoshizumi MIURA, Tomomitsu OYAMA, Yoshikazu HIKI, Yoshimori WADA and Tokage AMANO. Yoritomo forbade Noriyori to remain in Kyoto, so army to search and kill Taira clan entered Kyoto on October 10 (August 27 under the old lunar calendar), granted with kanpu (official documents from Dajokan, or Great Council of State) of envoy to search for and kill the Taira clan on October 12 (August 29 under the old lunar calendar), and proceeded to Saikai (provinces on the western sea coast) on October 13 (September 1 under the old lunar calendar).

Yoritomo opened Kumonjo (an Office of Administration) and appointed OE no Hiromoto to betto (director of the Secretariat) on November 17 (October 6 under the old lunar calendar). Later, Kumonjo changed its name to Mandokoro (Administrative Board), and took charge of political affairs and financial affairs for the future Kamakura bakufu. Yoritomo opened monchujo (a court of justice), which took charge of suits, on December 1 (October 20 under the old lunar calendar) and appointed MIYOSHI no Yasunobu to steward. Around this time, talented government officials (especially one of low to medium rank), such as Yukimasa NIKAIDO and Moritoki TAIRA (Chikeji - an official working under mandokoro betto, or a director of the administrative board of the Kamakura bakufu Mandokoro), left the capital to Kamakura to search for an opportunity to show their abilities. They formed the initial bureaucratic organization of the bakufu.

On February 14, 1185 (January 6, 1185 under the old lunar calendar), a letter arrived from Noriyori at Saikai, raising distress, such as the lack of army provisions and a ship, and the friction with Togoku Samurai (a group of samurai in the eastern part of Japan) wishing for repatriations. Yoritomo sent letter back to Noriyori, stating safety of Emperor Antoku and TAIRA no Tokuko, and ordered not to move the army and nor provoke antipathy from samurai of Chikushi. Also Yoritomo requested that Kyushu samurai follow Noriyori to kill the Taira clan. Yoritomo decided to send Yoshitsune, who was removed from the army to search for and kill the Taira clan and was staying at Kyoto, to Shikoku and Yoshitsune departed on February 18 (January 10 under the old lunar calendar) to search for and kill the Taira clan based in Yashima in Sanuki Province. Noriyori received army provisions and a ship from the Kyushu samurai and on March 6 (January 26 under the old lunar calendar), sailed from Suo to Bungo Province. On March 29 (February 19 under the old lunar calendar), Yoshitsune chased the Taira clan to the ocean during the Battle of Yashima, on May 2 (March 24 under the old lunar calendar), Taira clan and Emperor Antoku drowned at the Battle of Dannoura and Yoshitsune captured TAIRA no Munemori and Kenreimonin and at last the Taira clan was destroyed.

Yoritomo was promoted to Junii (Junior Second Rank) with honor upon the TAIRA no Munemori capture.

Banishment of Yoshitsune

May 1185 (April under the old lunar calendar), a letter that impeached Yoshitsune was delivered to Yoritomo, from Kagetoki KAJIWARA who worked in Samurai-dokoro shoshi (Governor of the Board of Retainers) and served Yoshitsune as an assistant in the search and killing of Taira clan. On May 22 (April 15 in old lunar calendar), Yoritomo spoke ill of those who appointed by the Imperial Court without Yoritomo's unofficial recommendation, and banned them from returning to Togoku. However, Yoritomo did not give any punishment to Yoshitsune who was appointed in the same manner. Apart from the Kagetoki's letter, reports stating the tyranny of Yoshitsune, such as his exceeding the authority of Noriyori's jurisdiction and punishing Togoku Samurai following him according to his own judgment, came to Yoritomo's knowledge and in June (May under the old lunar calendar), Yoritomo ordered gokenin not to follow Yoshitsune. At the time, Yoshitsune triumphantly returned to Sagami Province, accompanied with TAIRA no Munemori and his son. However, Yoritomo did not allow Yoshitsune to enter Kamakura, and only TAIRA no Munemori and his son were permitted to enter. Yoshitsune sent Koshigoe-jo (MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune's letter to OE no Hiromoto to ask an intercession to MINAMOTO no Yoritomo for him) while staying at Koshigoe, but on July 14 (June 9 under the old lunar calendar), after meeting with Munemori, Yoritomo ordered Yoshitsune to return to Kyoto accompanying Munemori and his son without allowing Yoshitsune into Kamakura.
Yoshitsune bore a deep grudge against Yoritomo, and said 'those who hold a grudge in Kanto shall follow Yoshitsune.'
Yoritomo heard this and confiscated all of Yoshitsune's shoryo.

Yoshitsune decapitated Munemori and his son in Omi Province and went to Todai-ji Temple, where Yoshitsune attacked and burnt Shigehira. On September 6 (August 4 under the old lunar calendar) Yoritomo ordered Sadatsuna SASAKI to search and kill MINAMOTO no Yukiie, the uncle and who used to follow MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka. Yoritomo sent Kagesue KAJIWARA in October (September under the old lunar calendar) to check on Yoshitsune at Kyoto, and Yoshitsune appeared in front of Kagesue with a body that grew thin and was worn-out. Yoshitsune received a demand to search for and kill Yukiie, but he rejected the request because of his illness and the fact that Yukiie was Kawachi-Genji, the same as Yoshitsune. Receiving a report from Kagesue who returned in November (October under the old lunar calendar), Yoritomo concluded that there was a connection between Yoshitsune and Yukiie, and sent Shoshin TOSANOBO, a retainer, to Kyoto to kill Yoshitsune. Whereas Yoshitsune asked Emperor Goshirakawa for an imperial sanction to search for and kill Yoritomo. On November 17 (October 17 under the old lunar calendar), approximately sixty horsemen led by Shoshin TOSANOBO, who received orders from Yoritomo, attacked the residence of Yoshitsune in Kyoto. However Yukiie took sides with Yoshitsune who fought back, and the attack ended in a failure. Yoshitsune confirmed the fact that Shoshin TOSANOBO was sent by Yoritomo's order. Again, Yoshitsune asked for an imperial decree to search for and kill MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, and the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa gave the imperial decree to Yoshitsune, giving into pressure. On November 24 (October 24 under the old lunar calendar), Yoritomo gathered the Minamoto clan and many gokenin for a memorial service for the completion of the Shochoju-in Temple of his father, Yoshitomo. The same night, Yoritomo ordered gokenin to depart to Kyoto immediately, countering the imperial decree to search for and kill MINAMOTO no Yoritomo that was issued by the Imperial Court. However only fifty-eight samurai followed the order, out of 2098 samurais, who gathered in Kamakura at that time. Yoritomo decided to go into battle himself, departing on November 29 (October 29 under the old lunar calendar) and arrived at Kise River in Suruga Province on December 1 (November 1). Meanwhile, Yoshitsune could not gather samurai to search for and kill Yoritomo and fled from Kyoto with roto (retainer) and Yukiie on December 3 (November 3 under the old lunar calendar). They encounter a rainstorm on the sea route to Saigoku and the party was broken up as the fleet was shipwrecked. Yoshitsune had disappeared and Shizukagozen, Yoshitsune's concubine, was captured on Mt. Yoshino.

The beginning of a unified country

Yoritomo departed from the Kise River back to Kamakura on December 8 (November 8 under the old lunar calendar), after sending an envoy to the capital. In the beginning of December (November under the old lunar calendar), Togoku Samurai entered Kyoto, replacing Yoshitsune and Yukiie, with a vigorous attitude, and then they headed to Harima Province, chigyo-koku (provincial fiefdom) of the Cloistered Emperor, and sealed the warehouses after expelling daikan of the Cloistered Emperor. The Imperial court was dismayed by Yoritomo's anger, and on December 11 (November 11 under the old lunar calendar), inzen (a decree from the retired Emperor) to search for and capture Yoshitsune and Yukiie was issued to various regions. On December 12 (November 12 under the old lunar calendar), OE no Hiromoto proposed the establishment of Shugo and Jito (military governor and estate steward) to Yoritomo, who was thinking of measures to take. Yoritomo approved of this, and put on pressure agitating the Imperial Court with a vigorous attitude.

On December 24 (November 24 under old lunar calendar), Tokimasa HOJO entered Kyoto with 1000 horsemen, as a daikan of Yoritomo. Tokimasa HOJO told Yoritomo's anger to In, submitting demand of the Kamakura side and started negotiations with the Cloistered Emperor. On December 28 (November 28 under the old lunar calendar), Tokimasa pushed the 'establishment of Shugo and Jito to the whole country' through Tsunefusa YOSHIDA, to search for and capture Yoshitsune, and successfully got approval (the Bunji imperial sanction). This confirmed the power of Kamakura as the countrywide government. In January 1186 (December 1185 in old lunar calendar), nobles of the anti-bakufu group, who supported Yoshitsune, were cleared away by removal from office or banishment, and chigyo-koku for kugyo (the top court officials) were also assigned. Yoritomo changed personnel of Imperial Court to Kamakura's favor by making kugyo of the pro-bakufu group, such as Kanezane KUJO, to giso (a position conveying what the congress decides to the Emperor) and requesting Kanezane to be nairan (a preliminary inspection of official documents submitted from the Great Council of State to the Emperor, the essential part of Sessho Kanpaku (regent and chief adviser to the Emperor) duty). At this point, Kamakura government gained security and this was an essential achievement, incomparable with the search for Yoshitsune.
Yoritomo underlined the importance of the matter in a letter he sent to Kanezane, stating 'Now is the beginning of a unified country.'

In April 1186 (March 1186 under the old lunar calendar), Yoritomo made FUJIWARA no Motomichi, a Sessho (a regent) as the Cloistered Emperor deeply favored, resign as the person responsible for issuing the imperial decree to search for and kill MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, instead Yoritomo had Kanezane appointed to Sessho. Rumors of Yoshitsune appearing around Kyoto was rife since May (April in old lunar calendar) time. Although Yoritomo was enraged suspecting that nobles and In were behind it, he was attentive to the Tohoku region too and sent the following letter to FUJIWARA no Hidehira of Oshu to send up a trial balloon.
Hidehira is the head of Okuroku-gun and I am Sokan (officer to keep the peace) of Tokaido.'
We should constitute a close friendship.'
Horses and money to be sent to capital shall be controlled in Kamakura, and deliver to the capital.'

MINAMOTO no Yukiie was killed on June 7 (May 12 under the old lunar calendar), while he was hiding in Izumi Province. Yoritomo pressured the influence of temples, sheltering Yoshitsune, by conducting searches and restricting their behavior. Yoritomo captured and killed Yoshitsune's trusted retainers, who were found during the search, and obtained evidence of a connection between Yoshitsune and In no Kinshin (the retired Emperor's courtier). Around the end of 1186 (November 1185 under the old lunar calendar), Yoritomo strongly protested against the Imperial Court, as following.
Reason we could not capture Yoshitsune, is because of the Imperial Court.'
Some have been sheltering Yoshitsune, or agreeing with Yoshitsune.'
The Imperial court issued an inzen to search for and capture Yoshitsune again, and mass prayers for the search and capture of Yoshitsune were offered at each temple. After being abandoned in Kyoto, Yoshitsune escaped to Oshu and came under the protection of FUJIWARA no Hidehira.

Yoritomo started to receive complaints of conflicts and also dealt with reconstruction of Todai-ji Temple that was burnt by TAIRA no Shigehira. Also there is another theory, that Yoritomo purposely did not capture Yoshitsune, delaying the tracking of his hiding place to diminish the temple and shrine powers, which sheltered Yoshitsune.

The Battle of Oshu

November 1187 (October 1187 under the old lunar calendar), FUJIWARA no Hidehira passed away, and he willed FUJIWARA no Yasuhira, Hidehira's son, to make MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune a shogun and to follow him. May 1188 (April 1188), Yoritomo asked the Imperial Court for inzen to search for and kill Yoshitsune, and an imperial decree to hand over Yoshitsune was issued to Yasuhira. On May 1189 (leap April 1189 under the old lunar calendar), Yasuhira gave in to this and attacked Yoshitsune at Koromogawa no Tachi (residence of the Oshu-Fujiwara clan), where Yoshitsune was living, forcing Yoshitsune to commit suicide.

Yoshitsune's severed head was delivered to Kamakura on August 3 (June 13 under the old lunar calendar), and Yoritomo made Yoshimori WADA and Kagetoki KAJIWARA identify the severed head. On August 15 (June 25 under the old lunar calendar), Yoritomo asked the Imperial Court for an imperial decree to search for and kill Yasuhira and gathered gokenin to Kamakura, but the imperial sanction was not issued. Yoritomo called Kageyoshi OBA, and asked him the following.
Imperial sanction is yet to be issued.'
Why summon gokenin to gather.'
In what way has this been done.'
Kageyoshi answered, 'during the battle we shall obey shogun's command, not the Emperor's Mikotonori (imperial edict).'
Yoritomo was deeply pleased, and rewarded Kageyoshi.

Finally on September 8 (July 19 under the old lunar calendar), Yoritomo departed Kamakura with 1000 horsemen to search and kill Yasuhira, and the Battle of Oshu started without an imperial sanction. On September 14 (July 25 under the old lunar calendar), Yoritomo added Hideyoshi SATAKE to his army, as well as praying at Utsunomiya Futaarayama-jinja Shrine for a victory.

Yoritomo killed FUJIWARA no Kunihira at the Battle of Atsukashiyama, during September 25 to 28 (August 7 to 10 under the old lunar calendar), and continued advancing, tracking Yasuhira north. Yoritomo arrived at the residence of Yasuhira in Hiraizumi on October 10 (August 22 under the old lunar calendar), but Yasuhira had already fled after burning the house down. Yoritomo sent an envoy to the Imperial Court to report on the war situation, and continued with search for Yasuhira. Yasuhira sent a letter to Yoritomo on October 14 (August 26), asking for life, and requested to leave a reply in Hinai-gun. Receiving the letter, Yoritomo ordered to search for Yasuhira in Hinai-gun, and moved a camp to Morioka City, Iwai-gun on October 19 (September 2 in old lunar calendar). Kuriyagawa was a region where MINAMOTO no Yoriyoshi killed Sadato ABE in Zen Kunen no Eki (the Former Nine Year Campaign), and Yoritomo desired to subjugate Yasuhira in Kuriyagawa to imitate a joyous precedent. On October 20 (September 3 under the old lunar calendar), Yasuhira was killed with the betrayal of KAWADA no Jiro, Yasuhira's roju (vassal). KAWADA no Jiro visited Yoritomo, who was back at Shiwa-cho, with Yasuhira's severed head on October 23 (September 6 in old lunar calendar). Yoritomo condemned KAWADA no Jiro to execution by decapitation because of the immorality of killing the master. As for Yasuhira's severed head, Yoritomo imitated MINAMOTO no Yoriyoshi who had the severed head of Sadato ABE nailed.

On October 26 (September 9 under the old lunar calendar), the imperial decree for Yasuhira Conquest was finally received by Yoritomo, who had already conquered Oshu.

Yoritomo returned to Kuriyagawa and ordered the approval of a landowner of Jiryo (land belonged to a temple), such as Chuson-ji Temple erected by Oshu Fujiwara clan, Motsu-ji Temple and Muryoko-in Temple Ruins that imitated Uji-byodoin Temple. Once returned to Hiraizumi, Yoritomo was impressed with temples when he paid a visit and erected Eifuku-ji Temple ruins, imitating Daichoju-in Temple erected in precincts of Chuson-ji Temple, after his return to Kamakura. On November 10 (September 24 under the old lunar calendar), Yoritomo ordered Kiyoshige KASAI for the maintenance of Hiraizumi security and awarded Date-gun, Iwai-gun and Oshika-gun. Yoritomo visited the ruins of Koromogawa where ABE no Yoritoki lived on November 13 (September 27 under the old lunar calendar), left Hiraizumi on November 14 (September 28 under the old lunar calendar), and arrived at Kamakura on December 10 (October 24 under the old lunar calendar).

Samurai from all over the country, not just from Kanto, were called to arm for the Battle of Oshu. This was also an opportunity given to prisoners who used to fight against Yoritomo to serve him, if they followed to war and distinguished themselves in battle. Moreover, the battle reinforced a relationship between lord and vassal of Yoritomo and Bando samurai by frequently bringing up precedents of MINAMOTO no Yoriyoshi at Zen Kunen no Eki.

The domestic conflict lasted from 1180 finally came to an end, as the Battle of Oshu finished.

Seii taishogun

On December 18, 1189 (November 3, 1189 under the old lunar calendar), a letter from Imperial Court praising Yoritomo for Oshu Conquest was delivered, also in the letter Yoritomo was asked for an appointment to Azechi (inspector of the provincial government) and to recommend gokenin with distinguished war service, but Yoritomo declined the offer. On November 9, 1190 (October 3, 1190 under the old lunar calendar), Yoritomo finally decided to go Kyoto and departed Kamakura. Yoritomo came through Noma, Owari Province, where his father was killed, and Ogaki City, Mino Province, where his parents and siblings stayed, and he entered Kyoto with gokenin of approximately 1,000 horsemen on December 12 (November 7 under the old lunar calendar). Yoritomo took up residence at a new house that was built on the site of Rokuhara, where TAIRA no Kiyomori used to reside.

Yoritomo had an audience with Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa on December 14 (November 9 under the old lunar calendar), and there they talked together for long time. It is believed that, here the positions of Nihon-koku Sotsuibukushi and Sojito, which were retained for the purpose of search and the arrest of Yoshitsune and Yukiie, were revised to more general police powers for public safety and had changed to a permanent organization. However Yoritomo could not be appointed to Seii taishogun, the position he desired earnestly as a symbol of a Togoku ruler, instead, he was requested to be appointed to Dainagon (chief councilor of state), to which he declined, and returned to Rokuhara after having an audience with Emperor Gotoba.
However an imperial decree for the appointment of Gon Dainagon (provisional chief councilor of state) was delivered to Rokuhara, stating 'Now, there shall not be any objection.'
Yoritomo sent a letter declining, but it was not accepted and investiture was conducted. Moreover, Yoritomo was asked for an appointment of Konoe no daisho (Major Captain of the Palace Guards), that was the highest position for a military officer, on December 27 (November 22 under the old lunar calendar). Again, Yoritomo declined the offer but he was appointed to Konoe no daisho on December 29 (November 24 under the old lunar calendar). Yoritomo resigned both posts on January 6, 1191 (December 3, 1190 in old lunar calendar), and made gokenin with distinguished war service to be appointed to the posts on January 14, 1191 (December 11, 1190 under the old lunar calendar). On the night of December 14, 1190 (November 9, 1190 under the old lunar calendar), the day of appointment to Gon Dainagon was decided, Yoritomo met with Kanezane KUJO and talked without reserve, as follows.
Now the Cloistered Emperor takes the reins of government at will and with the matters now standing, the Emperor is no different than the Crown Prince.'
Fortunately you are still young with a long future before you.'
If fortune smiles upon me, in time an affair of the country shall be made right, after the demise of the Cloistered Emperor.'
Yoritomo concluded that he should accept the post of 'Asa dai-shogun' (the great general of the country) once, to vindicate honor of his father who was killed as Gyakushin (rebellious subject). Yoritomo departed Kyoto for Kamakura on January 17, 1191 (December 14, 1190 under the old lunar calendar), and arrived at Kamakura on February 1, 1191 (December 29, 1190 under the old lunar calendar).

The Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa died in April 1192 (March 1192 under the old lunar calendar), and the same year on August 28 (July 12 under the old lunar calendar), Yoritomo was appointed Seii taishogun. Commonly it is said that Yoritomo's appointment to Seii taishogun opened the Kamakura bakufu.

Yoritomo gathered gokenin and went for Makigari (Hunting session) in Suruga Province on July 5, 1193 (May 28, 1193 under the old lunar calendar), on the same night, Suketsune KUDO, a gokenin, was killed by the Soga brothers out of revenge. Post station was temporarily thrown into panic and the false information of Yoritomo's kill was reported to Kamakura.
MINAMOTO no Noriyori consoled Masako HOJO saying 'Be at ease, Noriyori shall support you hereafter.'
The statement provoked Yoritomo's suspicion for a rebellion.
Kishomon (sworn oath) denying the rebellion was delivered to Yoritomo on September 5 (August 2 under the old lunar calendar), but Yoritomo become infuriated at the use of the name 'Minamoto.'
Kanja (spy) of Noriyori was captured while lurking in Yoritomo's bedspace on September 13 (August 10 under the old lunar calendar). Because of this, Noriyori was exiled to Izu, and was later executed. In 1194, Yoritomo executed Yoshisada YASUDA, a senior vassal. Around the end of April to the beginning of May 1195 (March 1195 under the old lunar calendar), Yoritomo held large-scaled yabusame (horseback archery demonstration), gathering gokenin of bakufu at Sumiyoshi-taisha Shrine in Settsu Province. In 1197, Yoritomo ordered to create Ota-bumi (a cadastre created during the Kamakura period) in Satsuma Province and Osumi Province, aiming to reinforce regional control.

Around the end of March to the beginning of April 1195 (February 1195 under the old lunar calendar), Yoritomo went to Kyoto again with Masako, MINAMOTO no Yoriie and Ohime (the daughter of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo) to attend a Buddhist ceremony for the rebuilding of Todai-ji Temple, and started a movement for the imperial bridal party's entry into the court, to make Ohime, the eldest daughter, the wife of Emperor Gotoba. However Kanezane KUJO, Yoritomo's sworn ally, already had his daughter, Ninshi KUJO, enter the court, and Yoritomo feared if Kanezane would raise an objection. Therefore in Kyoto, Yoritomo made contact not with Kanezane, but with Michichika TSUCHIMIKADO and TAKASHINA no Eishi, who were political enemies of Kanezane. Yoritomo planned Imperial Court maneuvering by giving large amounts of gifts and approvals of a landownership of a vast shoen (manor in medieval Japan), to have Ohime enter the court. In December 1196 (November 1196 in old lunar calendar), Kanezane was overthrown with his family because of slandering Michichika to Emperor Gotoba, and Yoritomo is said to acquiesce this (Coup of the seventh year of Kenkyu). This resulted in a breakdown of the pro-bakufu group in the Imperial Court, and the anti-bakufu group became influential. In September 1197 (July 1197 under the old lunar calendar), the plan of Ohime's entrance into the court ended unsuccessful, with the death of Ohime. In mid February 1198 (the New Year of 1198 under the old lunar calendar), Emperor Gotoba abdicated the throne to Emperor Tsuchimikado, whose mother was the adopted daughter of Michichika, and he became the retired Emperor. Michichika's influence was boosted as maternal relative of the Emperor. Yoritomo's objection was ignored, as he no longer had a spokesman in the Imperial Court. Yet once more, Yoritomo planned entrance of Sanman hime, the second daughter, into court. However Yoritomo got out of condition on the way back from Buddhist ceremony for bridging the Sagami-gawa River, on February 1, 1199 (December 27, 1198 under the old lunar calendar). It is said to be from a fall from a horse, but it is not certain.

Yoritomo entered the priesthood on February 14, 1199 (January 11, 1199 in old lunar calendar), and died on February 16 (January 13 under the old lunar calendar). Died at the age of 53 (Died at 51 years old).

Chronological table

Dates mentioned are those used in a source, Senmyo reki (a variation of the lunar calendar created in ancient China) was in use at that time.

Seireki (Western calendar system) has changed New Year's Day to Senmyo reki.

Saishi (religious service)

Graveyard of simple stone-made many-tiered tower remains at the half way up of Okura-yama Mountain in Kamakura City.

After Yoritomo's death, his body was buried in his jibutsu-do hall (the nobility's private Buddha statue hall). From 1200, the jibutsu-do hall has been called Hokke-do Hall, and many Buddhist memorial services had been performed there. Time between mid March to April (February 1779 under the old lunar calendar), Shigehide SHIMAZU, the lord of Satsuma Domain, built a stone pagoda that still remains today. Hokke-do Hall located in front of the stone pagoda was destroyed because of the anti-Buddhist movement at the beginning of the Meiji period, and in 1872, Shirahata-jinja Shrine was erected at the site to enshrine Yoritomo.
In 1927, the stone pagoda was designated as a national historical site, as 'Hokke-do Hall Ruins (the grave of Minamoto no Yoritomo).'

There is also another Shirahata-jinja Shrine in the precincts of Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine. According to the shrine's biography, Masako HOJO was granted with shingo (literally "shrine name" which is the title given to a Shinto shrine) of Shirahata Daimyojin (the great deity of the white flag) and she founded the shrine in 1200. It is also said to be the foundation of MINAMOTO no Yoriie. In 1888, the shrine was re-enshrined at present location. After Meiji period, it is also deities in aidono (enshrinement of two or more deities in one building of a shrine) of Nikko Toshogu Shrine.

Presently, Minamoto no Yoritomo Kobozen-sai (memorial service for the anniversary of the death of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo) is performed by Shinto priest of Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine every year on April 13, Yoritomo's anniversary of the death. Representatives of the Shimazu family from Kagoshima also attend the service. Also a procession that carries Yoritomo's mikoshi (portable shrine carried in festivals) goes up and down a sando (an approach to the temple) in a procession of one thousand samurai held in spring and autumn at Nikko Toshogu Shrine. A mounted warrior imitating Yoritomo can be seen in the Genji Festival of Tada-jinja Shrine in Kawanishi City, Hyogo Prefecture.

Yoritomo's appearance

"Heiji monogatari" (The tale of the Heiji) says he 'looked older than his real age,' and "Genpei Seisui ki" (Rise and Fall of the Minamoto and the Taira clans) says his 'big face and appearance is beautiful.'
"Heike Monogatari" (The tale of the Heike) tells about NAKAHARA no Yasusada who faced Yoritomo in September 1183 (August 1183 under the old lunar calendar) in Kamakura as follows.
Big face and short in stature'
Elegant figure and sagacity in words'
"Gyokuyo" (Diary of Kanezane KUJO) states 'Yoritomo's body held solemn might, whose nature is severe, sagacious in administration and discriminable of right and wrong' (the item of October 9 under the old lunar calendar). Height of Yoritomo is estimated to be around 165 cm from dedicated Kacchu (armor and helmet) in Oyamazumi-jinja Shrine, which is taller than the average at the time.

Many portraits have been passed down. Portraits of property of Kyoto Jingo-ji Temple (the three portraits in Jingo-ji Temple) have been passed down as Yoritomo's portrait, and it has been designated as a national treasure, as a masterpiece of Yamato-e painting (a traditional Japanese style painting of the late Heian and Kamakura periods dealing with Japanese themes) portrait. However in 1995, Michio YONEKURA published a theory, that the portrait is a portrayal of Tadayoshi ASHIKAGA, considering the drawing method and garments depicted. The subject of the portrait is still a matter of debate (See the three portraits of Jingo-ji Temple for details). A wooden statue passed down in Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine was said to be a statue of Yoritomo during the Edo period, presently it is owned by Tokyo National Museum and is designated as a national important cultural property. The wooden statue of Minamoto no Yoritomo in a seated position, currently property of Kai-Zenko-ji Temple, was moved from Zenko-ji Temple of Shinano Province during the Sengoku period, and it is said to be the oldest statue of Yoritomo, carved in 1319.


Togoku Samurai under Yoritomo's command had strong independent spirit that they did not know a unity above a family and were defeated one by one in the battle, as they were impetuous for their own distinction, but Yoritomo had unified them as gokenin.

There is a description made in April 1184 that Yoritomo denounced the detailed appearance of gokenin, who were appointed to government post in the Imperial Court without Yoritomo's recommendation. However this provides evidence that Yoritomo knew thoroughly of individual gokenin, including their appearance. Yoritomo heard reports of a battle, and remarked as follows.
You reported that X died in battle and Y escaped, but that cannot be.'
It must be a mistake of X escaping and Y dying in battle.'
As a result of an investigation, it was as Yoritomo said, and such numerous episodes can be easily found in "Azuma Kagami" (The Mirror of the East, a chronicle of the early history of the Kamakura Bakufu). When Yoritomo saw FUJIWARA no Toshikane, a bugyonin (a magistrate for Heian period political operations and ceremonies of the Imperial Court) and one of his close retainers, wearing a luxurious garment, Yoritomo cut off Toshikane's kosode (a kimono with short sleeves worn as underclothing by the upper classes) and gave the following warning.
Tsunetane CHIBA and Sanehira DOI are a level of samurai who cannot judge virtue and vice, but they use articles of inferior quality for garments and they do not care greatly for luxury.'
That is why the family is wealthy and provides care for many retainers to render distinguished services.'
And yet, you have no idea of how to use the estate, you have failed to know your place.'
Like this, Yoritomo had thorough knowledge of both close bureaucracy and Togoku gokenin, and used the right person in the right place.

Yoritomo was soft on his wife and children, he gladly sent an envoy to Masako HOJO reporting that MINAMOTO no Yoriie, Yoritomo's twelve year old son, brought down a deer in Fuji no Makigari (Hunting session at Mt. Fuji) and Masako told Yoritomo off saying it is a matter of course for a son of samurai.

Yoritomo rarely fought at the front during his career, but he displayed a strong bow inherited from his uncle, MINAMOTO no Tametomo, in the Battle of Ishibashiyama, killing an armored warrior with one arrow.

Yoritomo was on close terms with Jien, a monk of the Tendai sect in the early Kamakura period, and composed waka (a traditional Japanese poem of thirty-one syllables), which his zotoka (exchange of poems), 'I can ill afford to understand to hold back without a word, please do exhaust your whole heart in the letter as if you traverse to Tsubo no ishibumi (stone monument) at the end of Mutsu,' was selected to Shinkokin Wakashu (New Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry).

Public estimation

Government that Yoritomo opened was institutionalized and in time took real political power over from the Imperial Court and the government was later named bakufu, which lasted approximately 680 years until the Restoration of Imperial Rule. Yoritomo's achievement is highly rated as a founder of the military government, and most Japanese have learnt Yoritomo's name in compulsory education.

On the other hand, his character is often rated as 'a coolheaded politician.'
That is because Yoritomo killed many of his brothers in the same clan, and rarely led an army himself (though he was said to be excellent at martial arts, did not show a distinguished achievement as war commander), but did achieve the establishment of the Kamakura bakufu mainly by political negotiation. As Yoritomo caused the death of Yoshitsune, the youngest brother who was immensely popular from sympathy rendered for a tragic hero, the popularity of Yoritomo is not as high in spite of his achievements and he is rarely described as a protagonist in novels.

Above are mainly ratings of the present, but many people had also rated Yoritomo in the past.

Masako HOJO and gokenin

When the bakufu opposed the Imperial Court in the Jokyu War, which happened after Yoritomo's death, Masako HOJO spoke to the gathered gokenin as follows.
After the late Udaishogun (the great general of the right (MINAMOTO no Yoritomo) destroyed the Emperor's enemy and opened Kanto, the debt of gratitude is higher than the mountains, deeper than the sea, so are official court ranks, horoku (salary).'
(snip) Those who know the obligation and lament his name, shall kill disloyal and false subjects (vassals) at once, to repay the kindness.'
Gokenin heard this, and tearfully swore repayment of a kindness. It reveals Yoritomo's position in the bakufu, and the high rating from gokenin.

Horyakukanki (A History Book of the fourteenth century in Japan)

It states death of Yoritomo was an act of apparition of Emperor Antoku, MINAMOTO no Yoshihiro, Yoshitsune and Yukiie, whom he destroyed. It says that his life was seen as a sinful one at the time.

Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI

According to Buhenhanashi kikigaki (anecdotes about the life of samurai), Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI spoke as follows, when he visited the statue of Yoritomo in Shirahata-jinja Shrine of Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine.
You and I, both subjugated the whole country from a diminutive body.'
However you are the Emperor's descendant, and your ancestors are subjugated Kanto.'
Consequently many had followed you, even though you raised an army from the state of an exile.'
I have conquered the whole country without clan and lineage.'
It is I, who won a victory over you.'
But you and I are friends, who unified whole country.'
Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI evaluated, half jokingly, Yoritomo's deed was due to his lineage.


Ieyasu TOKUGAWA ordered to collect "Azuma Kagami" (The Mirror of the East) that state many of Yoritomo's deed, and made copy of it. Ieyasu TOKUGAWA worshiped Yoritomo, professing himself as part of the Nitta clan group of the Minamoto clan, and it is said that he learnt about Yoritomo's activities by reading "Azuma Kagami" (The Mirror of the East).

Hakuseki ARAI

In Tokushi Yoron (Lessons from History), Hakuseki ARAI appraised Yoritomo's political side, and negatively evaluated Yoritomo's actions that benefited him personally while paying little respect to the Imperial Court. The reason why Yoritomo did not go to Kyoto for four years since raising an army and gave seized land of Togoku to a retainer, was because Yoritomo already had the intention to become independent. The reason why Yoritomo killed MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka was that Yoritomo detested Yoshinaka for receiving an endorsement from the Imperial Court, and he also blamed Yoshinaka for not accusing the confinement of the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa. As for a conflict with MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune, Hakuseki ARAI's view was that attacking Yoshitsune, who took rank with Ason (second highest of the eight hereditary titles), in Kyoto was not an act of a subject and the reason of the attack was because Yoshitsune received imperial accolades, as well as fearing Yoshitsune's tactics.
For a view of Yoshitsune's death, said to be based on a false charge given by Kagetoki KAJIWARA in addition to Yoshitsune's arrogance, Hakuseki ARAI argued back mentioning the example of MINAMOTO no Noriyori, who was killed without arrogance nor slander, and concluded it must be the hardest thing to 'be a younger brother of such a person as Yoritomo.'

In addition, there are the following statements made by various people, 'sagacious in administration ("Gyokuyo" by Kanezane KUJO)', 'conspicuous capability ("Gukansho" by Jien)' and '頼朝勲功まことにためしなかりければ ("Jinno Shotoki" [A Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns] by Chikafusa KITABATAKE)'. Overall, Yoritomo's political capabilities were highly rated, but the overall rating tends to vary according to the critics, as to whether they are persons of loyalty to the Emperor or persons abiding by the ethics of Confucianism, and also, the rating fluctuates depending upon the period. There are some people who viewed Yoritomo as a destroyer of Oshu culture, such as Kenji MIYAZAWA.

Kiyomori' last will and testament

Wording 'After my death, I shall not require a doto (temple and pagoda) or a discharge of filial duties, just cut off Yoritomo's head and offer it before my tomb' was described in "Heike Monogatari" (The tale of the Heike), and some question its credibility as it is just a tale.

Theories of the recent years point out that, although the will is understandably one for a Sengoku Samurai, it is impossible to carry out considering the sensibilities of samurai during the end of the Heian period. It is also said that Kiyomori desired reconciliation with Yoritomo, and cooperative politics with Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa. However, it is said that Munemori, who succeeded Kiyomori's position, was an imbecile and nothing came to pass as he objected.

On the other hand, it may be because of Kiyomori's will, but Kiyomori's graveyard has not been clearly passed down. Gyokuyo of September 18, 1181 (August 1, 1181 under the old lunar calendar) also says that Kiyomori's will is similar to "Heike Monogatari" (The tale of the Heike) and states it is hardly possible that the Taira clan will forgive Yoritomo because of his will.

Conflict with Yoshitsune

The circumstances of how it came to be that the youngest brother, Yoshitsune, was expelled, fascinated many people since the old days and it was made into story, and a lot of research has been done.

According to "Azuma Kagami," on September 19 (August 6 under the old lunar calendar) Yoshitsune was appointed without Yoritomo's unofficial recommendation whilst staying at Kyoto, and the enraged Yoritomo had removed Yoshitsune from the army to search for and kill the Taira clan (item of September 30, 1184 or August 17, 1184 under the old lunar calendar). However some theories object to this as a statement that contradicts other statements in "Azuma Kagami." Yoritomo ordered Yoshitsune to search for and kill TAIRA no Nobukane on September 16 (August 3 under the old lunar calendar) (item of September 16, August 3 under the old lunar calendar), and Yoshitsune had departed on September 25 (August 12 under the old lunar calendar). Therefore, it is possible to think that Yoshitsune was removed from the Saikai expedition before the appointment. Also, Yoshitsune received kanpu for an envoy to search for and kill the Taira clan (item of May 23, 1189 - leap April 30, 1189 under the old lunar calendar). It is said that Yoritomo did not punish Yoshitsune at all. On the other hand, it is possible to think that Yoritomo only found out about the appointment without permission on September 30 (August 17 under the old lunar calendar), and it was in the nature of the case that Yoritomo gave orders to Yoshitsune before the date. Also, as for kanpu for an envoy to search for and kill the Taira clan, the Imperial Court appointed Yoshitsune to kebiishi without a consulting Yoritomo, therefore it is understandable even if the Imperial Court handed down the kanpu for the envoy to search for and kill the Taira clan without a consulting Yoritomo.

Some theoretical reasons why Yoritomo feared Yoshitsune. There were many occasions where Yoritomo did not win a battle, whereas Yoshitsune had gained a series of victories in searching for and killing the Taira clan, therefore Yoritomo came to fear Yoshitsune's military talent. The fact that Yoritomo started the Battle of Oshu right after Yoshitsune was killed by FUJIWARA no Yasuhira, is used to back up this theory.

The Kamakura government, after the fall of the Taira clan, entered an extremely important period. The exercise of military power upon the pretext of searching for and killing the Taira clan would no longer be possible, once the domestic conflict was over. Yoritomo was facing a difficult situation requiring that he maintain and reinforce what he had obtained with military force even during time of peace, by political negotiation with the Imperial Court. Because of the time, he could not have tolerated those who stood against him, even if the person was from his own family and had made great achievements. The Imperial Court and the Oshu Fujiwara clan, the rival influences of the military government establishment, were behind Yoshitsune.

Yoritomo summoned Kiyohiro, a monk of Kofuku-ji Temple, to Kamakura to cross-examine him because he sheltered Yoshitsune who fled from capital, but Kiyohiro spoke frankly to Yoritomo with good grace.
Today's security in Kanto was brought about by Yoshitsune's military exploits.'
If you listen to slander and take away land rewarded through grants, it is natural to harbor thoughts of treachery. '
Do bring Yoshitsune back, and develop a close relationship between brothers.'
I do not speak only to defend Yoshitsune, but I am wishing for piece for the whole country.'
Yoritomo was deeply impressed with these words, and appointed Kiyohiro to the post of a shrine monk in Shochoju-in Temple. This shows that Yoritomo did not completely detest Yoshitsune. Yoritomo was a politician, and Yoshitsune was a military man. The difference was exposed after the fall of the Taira clan.

"Azuma Kagami" does not say anything about how Yoritomo reacted when Koshigoe-jo, that Yoshitsune wrote in tears of anguish while he was not permitted to enter Kamakura, was delivered, or when Yoshitsune committed suicide and his head was delivered.

Cause of death

Historical materials that contain the cause of death show the consistent view up until Yoritomo fell ill on the way back from the Buddhist ceremony for bridging Sagami-gawa River, but the cause is not fixed.
"Azuma Kagami" tells about 'a fall from a horse,' "Inokuma kanpaku ki" (diary of Iezane KONOE) tells of 'water-drinking disease,' "Jokyu Ki" (a record of Jokyu) tells of 'a curse of the God of Water and Rain' and "Horyakukanki" tells that 'Yoritomo fainted and fell ill after seeing an apparition of MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune and Emperor Antoku.'
Based on these materials, there are many theories argued even at present, and it is no longer possible to reach a settlement. There is no theory questioning his date of death as a consistent date of death has been passed down in other books.

The fall from a horse theory

This is the cause of death described in "Azuma Kagami," and is the most widely known theory. However, the cause of death appears in "Azuma Kagami" thirteen years after Yoritomo's death, and "Azuma Kagami" at the time of Yoritomo's death contained no description about Yoritomo's death, from the Buddhist ceremony for bridging a river to the funeral ceremony. It was believed that last moment was a dishonorable one for Yoritomo, therefore Ieyasu TOKUGAWA covered relevant items saying 'It should not contain the disgrace of a great commander,' but it is not credible as there are also other transcriptions and published books of "Azuma Kagami" passed down through other than Tokugawa family.

There are differences in interpretations depending upon the relationship of death and the fall from a horse. If the fall from a horse were an effect, a cerebral vascular disturbance, such as stroke, must have happened before the accident, and if a fall from a horse was the cause, it would have resulted in traumatic intracerebral hemorrhage. From the fact that it took seventeen days to his death from the fall from a horse, there is a possibility of aspiration pneumonia or hypostatic pneumonia, which happened after a stroke.

Diabetes insipidus theory

This is a theory that Yoritomo damaged central nerves in his brain by falling from a horse, causing abnormal secretion of vasopressin that led to diabetes insipidus. The amount of urine increases with the disease so the patient starts to drink large amounts of water (='water-drinking disease'), causing blood sodium levels to decrease. Therefore there was a high risk of fatality in twelfth century, when there was no appropriate method of treatment for this.

Diabetes mellitus theory

Water-drinking disease' described in "Inokuma kanpaku ki" is a disease where one wants to drink water and it is said to mean diabetes mellitus, but there is no record of such symptom, so that the possibility is low.

Death from drowning theory

Historical materials contain many of words associated with water, such as 'water-drinking disease,' 'Buddhist ceremony for bridging Sagami-gawa River,' 'a curse of the God of Water and Rain,' and 'appearance of Emperor Antoku over the sea,' therefore it is said that Yoritomo died from drowning. The area around the mouth of the Sagami-gawa River is also called Banyu-gawa River (write:馬入川, kanji meaning 'horse,' 'enter,' 'river') and it is said that the name originated from Yoritomo's horse suddenly acted up and entering the river, and Yoritomo fell from the horse. In the case of death from drowning theory, 'water-drinking disease' is said to mean drinking too much water as he fell into river and drowned.

Apparition theory

It is written in "Horyakukanki." In those days, an apparition and a curse were deeply believed in. Yoritomo was deeply devout, so it is said that he could see apparitions of Yoshitsune and Emperor Antoku. Also it can be seen as disturbance of consciousness.

Assassination theory

It is said that Yoritomo was assassinated like his sons, MINAMOTO no Yoriie and MINAMOTO no Sanetomo, which was not written in Azuma Kagami in order to hide the fact.

Killed by mistake theory

It is said that Yoritomo was mistaken as a suspicious character and killed on the way of sneaking into his lover's room under the cover of darkness.


Many retainers serving Yoritomo were samurai that lived in the Kanto region. Their family owed a debt of gratitude to Yoritomo's ancestors, Kawachi-Genji of Kinai such as MINAMOTO no Yorinobu, MINAMOTO no Yoriyoshi, and MINAMOTO no Yoshiie and many had served Yoritomo's father, MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo. Yoritomo made the most of their relations to make them follow him, and raise an army. After raising the army, many brothers from the same clan, who were suffering under government of Taira clan, also came to follow Yoritomo. After the suppression of Kanto, Yoritomo invited Court nobles from Kyoto to Kamakura, and made them aids to government affairs. These retainers who followed Yoritomo were called gokenin, that they were appointed to Shugo and Jito in various regions and their descendants spread all over Japan. Below are the main retainers.